WSOP: Chinese Poker (1995 to 1996)

[SS] “What do you consider the essential elements that a game needs to be considered poker?” Stan the Stat asked.

[FF] “Playing cards”, Figaro the Fish offered.

[SS] “I’d argue that technically you don’t need playing cards. Many poker games could be adjusted for tiles like those used in dominoes or mah jong.”

[RR] “Betting”, Roderick the Rock proposed.

[FF] “Definitely. You need a way to keep score in each hand and long term.”

[SS] “Agreed.”

[LL] “Bluffing,” Leroy the Lion claimed, “is the single key component that makes poker poker.”

[SS] “While I also agree with you, the World Series of Poker actually once had a game that had no bluffing: Chinese Poker, an extension of Pai Gow Poker which itself came from the Chinese domino game Pai Gow. Pai Gow, whose history can be traced back to the 10th century in China, is almost completely a game of luck, as all players need to do is split four tiles into two groups of two. Pai Gow Poker expanded on this, replacing the dominoes with playing cards and having players create a group of two and a better group of five. Chinese Poker added a little more skill by expanding the game to thirteen cards (groups of 3, 5, and 5).”

Game Name Chinese Poker
Game Type Irregular
Game Limits Point Scoring System
High or Low High
WSOP Years 1995 to 1996
Buyins $1,500 to $5,000
Largest Field 69 (1995 $1,500 event)
Notable Champions Steve Zolotow (won the 1995 $5,000 event ahead of Doyle Brunson)
Basic Rules Each player is dealt thirteen cards to arrange into a row of three cards, a better row of five cards, and an even better row of five cards. The respective rows are compared, with bonus points for winning every row.
History Chinese Poker evolved from Pai Gow Poker in the early 20th century, possibly earlier.
Notes Some rules allow surrendering. Like in Blackjack, this allows you to concede defeat for less than losing every matchup would cost.

[SS] “A modern variation called Open Face Chinese Poker (OFCP) developed in the 2000s, spreading to the U.S. by 2012. In this much more strategic game, players reveal and place their cards in turn, starting with five cards on the first turn then one on each subsequent turn.

An even more recent twist on this, Pineapple OFCP, starts with five cards, but then players reveal three cards at a time choosing two to keep and one to discard. This game requires more cards, so is limited to two or three players.

In December 2013, WSOP Executive Director Ty Stewart asked for input on whether OFCP should be a bracelet event and the conclusion was a clear no. Daniel Negreanu led the charge against the game, and Jack Effel agreed that ‘if there’s no betting or bluffing it’s not a poker game’.”1

[LL] “Maybe somebody will invent a variation of Chinese Poker that includes betting and bluffing so it can return in a few years…”

Footnotes:

  1. The merits of Open Face Chinese Poker as bracelet event discussion took place on Twitter on December 23, 2013.
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WSOP: Omaha (1983 to present)

[SS] “Rod, why are you always going all Peyton Manning on us in the side game?” Stan the Stat joked, referring to the Dealer’s Choice cash game that ran after the monthly tournament had shed enough players to free up a table.

[RR] “What do you mean? Because I play so well?” Rod suggested.

[FF] “I think he means because you’re so old you should retire.” Figaro the Fish jabbed.

[SS] “No, I mean why do you always call ‘Omaha, Omaha, Omaha’?”

[RR] “I just really like the game. I can never hit a hand in Texas Hold ‘Em, so having four hole cards instead of two really helps. It’s fun to make some straights and flushes and full houses for a change.”

[SS] “I’m sure you also like the certainty that comes with holding the nuts, something that happens way more often in Omaha. And Peyton Manning was certainly the nuts back in 2013 when he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns.”

Game Name Omaha
Game Type Flop
Game Limits Limit or Pot Limit
High or Low High or Hi/Lo (a.k.a. Omaha 8 or Better)
WSOP Years 1983 to present
Buyins $1,000 to $10,000
Largest Field 1,293 High (2015 $1,000 event), 1,036 Hi/Lo (2014 $1,500 event)
Notable Champions Daniel Alaei has won four bracelets in Omaha; Scotty Nguyen and T.J. Cloutier have each won three.
Basic Rules Omaha is played exactly like Hold ‘Em except that each player is dealt four hole cards, of which they must use exactly two to make their hand.
History Omaha is a fairly obvious variation of Texas Hold ‘Em, but it didn’t become popular until Bill Boyd began spreading the game as Nugget Hold ‘Em at the Golden Nugget Casino in 1982.2
Notes Big O is an Omaha variation in which each player is dealt five hole cards, but all other rules remain the same. With each player holding ten possible two-card combinations instead of six, stronger hands abound.

Footnotes:

  1. Peyton Manning yelled “Omaha” as an audible extensively during the 2013-14 NFL season.
  2. Casino executive Robert Turner deserves the credit for introducing Boyd to the game, which was also known as Nine Cards, Fort Worth, and Oklahoma before players agreed on Omaha, already the name of the Texas Hold ‘Em variant that required both hole cards to be used.
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WSOP: Five Card Draw (1978 to 1982)

[SS] “Five Card Draw is another old game whose popularity has faded”, Stan the Stat continued. “The American classic was contested at the World Series of Poker from 1978 to 1982, initially with a $5,000 buyin before dropping to $2,000 and then $1,000.”

[LL] “Five Card Draw was the first poker game I learned as a kid just around that same time”, Leroy the Lion added. “I still have the sheet of hand ranks that I tediously hunted and pecked on a manual typewriter. We played penny ante, so it was basically just for fun, and I’m pretty sure I was horrible at it. Fortunately, so was everyone else.”

[FF] “I’ve never played it. Should we try it in our side game?” Figaro the Fish wondered.

[RR] “I don’t think so. It requires too many cards to be played by more than five or six people. And there just isn’t much going for it. You have to figure out what people have based on just one or two bets and the number of cards they draw. And it’s usually played as Limit Poker. Not very exciting.”

[SS] “I agree. The Moneymaker generation of poker players didn’t miss much by not learning Five Card Draw. Don’t worry though, I’ll get to a bunch of better games you’ll like better soon.”

Game Name Five Card Draw Poker (a.k.a. Limit Draw High)
Game Type Draw
Game Limits Limit
High or Low High
WSOP Years 1978 to 1982
Buyins $1,000 to $5,000
Largest Field 36 (1981 $1,000 event)
Notable Champions Lakewood Louie (1978 & 1979), David Sklansky (1982)
Basic Rules Antes only. Each player is dealt five cards, and there is a round of betting. Each player can draw from zero to five cards, and there is a second round of betting.
History Five Card Draw dates back to at least the 1830s, shortly after the 52-card deck became common, allowing the addition of a draw to a simple 5-card betting game. Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back in 1876 while playing Five Card Draw.
Notes Home games sometimes limit draws to three cards, four if the player keeps an Ace. Most video poker games in casinos play Five Card Draw.

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WSOP: Deuce to Seven Draw (1973 to present)

[SS] “Deuce to Seven Draw is another lowball version of Five Card Draw”, Stan the Stat continued. “As the name indicates, the best possible hand is a Seven-High: 75432. Straights and flushes are counted and are very bad.”

[RR] “It’s very confusing that some low games use Five-high and others use Seven-high”, Roderick the Rock commented.

[SS] “There are also Six-high games, which is what happens to Ace-low games when straights count against you. Fortunately, the WSOP doesn’t play any of those. But you can see how each variation would develop independently. Each group can argue that their way is the ‘right’ way to play lowball. I could even claim that Deuce to Six lowball also makes sense, but fortunately that never took off.

Game Name Deuce to Seven Draw (a.k.a. Kansas City Lowball)
Game Type Draw
Game Limits Limit or No Limit
High or Low Low
WSOP Years 1973 to present (except 1983 & 1999)
Buyins $1000 to $10,000
Largest Field 285 for Draw (2012 $1,500 event) and 388 for Triple Draw (2015 $1,500 event)
Notable Champions Bill Baxter has won a record five Deuce to Seven events. Erik Seidel is one of several players who have won two. Jennifer Harman famously won the 2000 event despite having just been taught how to play. Christian Pham repeated her trick in 2015 when he accidentally signed up for the $1,500 buyin Deuce to Seven event instead of the $1,000 No Limit Hold ‘Em event on the same day.
Basic Rules Blinds and Antes. Each player is dealt five cards, and there is a round of betting (no limping allowed). Each player can draw from zero to five cards, and there is a second round of betting.
History The early history of Deuce to Seven Draw is basically unknown. It may have been one of the lowball games played in California and Nevada as far back as the 1930s.
Notes Deuce to Seven Triple Draw, which adds two draws and two rounds of betting, was first played around the late 1970s and joined the WSOP lineup in 2004, returning for good in 2007. Tuan Bui Le is the only player to have two Triple Draw titles (2014 & 2015).
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WSOP: Razz (1971 to present)

[SS] “Did you hear that Phil Hellmuth is joining us for tonight’s tournament?” Stan the Stat asked excitedly.

[RR] “I don’t think so; he didn’t RSVP.”

[SS] “He’s Elias the Eagle’s ‘plus one’. Phil’s friends with a local pro that Elias knows.”

[RR] “Really?”

[SS] “Not really. April Fool! Of course, you knew I was just teasing you, razzing you as a lead-in to the next WSOP game. Razz is a lowball version of Seven Card Stud. Aces are always low, so the best possible hand is a Five-High: 5432A. Neither straights nor flushes count against you.”

Game Name Razz
Game Type Stud
Game Limits Limit
High or Low Low
WSOP Years 1971 to present (except 1976; maybe not 1972)
Buyins $500 to $5,000
Largest Field 462 (2015 $1,500 event)
Notable Champions Several players have won two Razz bracelets, including Gary Berland, Huck Seed, Phil Hellmuth (his only non-Hold ‘Em bracelets), and Ted Forrest.
Basic Rules Antes only. Each player is dealt two hole cards. There is a round of betting after each of four up cards and another round of betting after one final hole card.
History Razz was an obvious variation of Seven Card Stud, but nobody knows when it was invented or even how it was named. The word “razz” itself dates back to 1920, when it was used as a short form of “raspberry” to mean “to hiss or deride”.1 The game of Razz started to become popular in the 1950s.
Notes Razz is the Ace-to-Five lowball version of Seven Card Stud.

Footnotes:

  1. Source: “razz” in the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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